Open/Close Menu Feed Your Spirit - Fulfill Your Purpose - Feel At Home

The Heart of the Matter

Easter Sunday, Common Lectionary Year A

John 20:1-18

©2014 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

“The way the Gospel writers tell it, in other words, Jesus came back from death not in a blaze of glory, but more like a candle flame in the dark, flickering first in this place, then in that place, then in no place at all.” Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark.

It seems to me that the Christian Church has been over-compensating for the past 2000 years. We’ve got musical masters like Vivaldi and Handel composing Hallelujahs to rock your world, with trumpets and drums, choirs, and every conceivable noisemaker. We deck out our building with white and gold, and flowers, and eggs, and shout as loud as we can “Hallelujah! Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!” As if shouting it, blaring it somehow makes up for…..

….well, for the absolute silence of Easter. The emptiness of Easter. The sheer puzzlement, the diffident confusion and frank unbelief of Easter the way the Gospellers tell it. Mark says nothing at all of resurrection. Matthew tries to add a bit of pyrotechnic glamour to the non-event. But they all agree on this: no–one saw Easter happen.

No stirring corpse, with tentative heartbeat. No Indiana-Jones-esque tectonic grinding of rock against stone. Nothing.

Nothing but a slowly dawning spring sunrise. You know the sort, those of you who have known the aching grief of loss, the sun that rises to herald an ordinary day, when your heart is broken, and you wish it wouldn’t callously disregard the night-time of your grief with its limpid light.

Easter, as John tells it, is not a Hallelujah moment, at all. Mary’s mournful heart breaks, when she sees the stone shoved aside, a desecrated grave! Not for a second does she believe Easter has happened; she believes the worst. She flees, tripping over her feet to cry the awful horror to Peter and to that best-beloved disciple, whose heart  too would have raced, then stopped in shame. The way the Gospels tell it, Jesus rose from the tomb, Jesus reclaimed life from the grip of death, not in some blaze of glory, but in the thick of darkness, silence, unwitnessed.

When it’s that dark, that quiet, that heart-achingly sad, it’s no wonder it takes us a bit of time to realize what inconceivable thing has happened in that dawn-dark tomb. Mary thought he was a gardener. Peter, brash Peter, bulldozed into a grave, saw linen lying like a teenager’s cast-offs on the ground and didn’t know what to make of what he saw. Even when the others, his followers, heard that Jesus was indeed risen, they tended to dismiss it as news too good to be true.

It took a name spoken in a whisper, heart-full with knowing, it took touching, whisper soft on scars, it took sharing broken bread, and a breakfast of fish by a lake, to finally dare to believe the truth of it. Risen Life. His, Jesus’ life, full of grace and truth, in the world again, fragile-strong as spring sunshine defeating winter’s grip.

It’s perhaps little wonder that the church is impatient with the Gospels, overriding their quiet, whispered diffident certainty with its brassy hallelujahs. But when you get right to the heart of it, where do we need resurrection most? Here, today, amid the fanfared hallelujahs? It’s wonderful, and all that. But God knows, knows us so well, knows that where we need resurrection most, and where God is always to be found, silent at the work of resurrection, is in the dark, in the grief, in the agony, in the empty silence. And, for the life of us, and for the life of the world …in here. (heart) dans nos coeurs.

Follow us: